DON’T be shy – talk to your doctor about sex, for your heart’s sake.
New findings by the National Heart Foundation show many of us find it a difficult topic to discuss, especially for heart attack survivors.
In fact, fewer than one in four Australian health professionals spoke to heart attack survivors about sex, although eight in 10 believe it’s important to have the conversation.
Heart Foundation Queensland health director Rachelle Foreman said resuming sexual activity and, just as importantly, emotional intimacy are important for quality of life for patients and their partners.
“Heart attack survivors are worried about having another heart attack, performance,and over-exertion,” Ms Foreman said.
“Depression, fatigue, a lack of cardiac fitness, pain or discomfort and sexual dysfunction, including low libido, can also play a role.
“Two out of three heart attack survivors tell us that having a heart attack had affected their sexual activity, yet only one in four had spoken with a health professional about it.
“That’s what prompted us to ask health professionals for their perspective, so that we could provide better information for both patients and health professionals.”
Foundation chief medical advisor Garry Jennings urged patients to talk to their doctors.
“Everyone needs to play a part,” Professor Jennings said.
“If it’s not covered by health professionals during recovery, it can play on patients’ minds and cause misconceptions and unnecessary anxiety.
“It is stressful enough to have survived a heart attack and to resume normal life without the added burden of not knowing whether, and when, to resume intimate relations.”
He said it is often partners who were worried about sex after a heart attack for fear of hurting the person recovering.
“It is reasonable to have sex as early as one week after a cardiac event such as a heart attack or angiogram/stent insertion, and six to eight weeks after coronary bypass surgery, when the wound has completely healed.”
As with any physical activity, it is important to feel comfortable and to progressively increase your level of participation.
“Studies show that the exertion of having sex with one’s usual partner is comparable to climbing two flights of stairs or walking briskly for a short time,” Professor Jennings said.
“Why not start by taking a walk together? It will give you a chance to talk and rebuild intimacy while testing your fitness following a cardiac event.”